Since independence, Kenya has relied on a few sources of income to run the economy. Traditionally these have been agriculture, tourism and most recently we are on the path of becoming an oil producing country. Incomes from whatever resources we have, are not sufficient to sustain our budget and therefore we have borrowed heavily to fill the gaps. Kenyans are highly taxed as the government tries to raise money to run the country. As we speak the proposed VAT on petroleum products will hit every Kenyan in a huge way starting September 1st 2018 if no miracle happens. IMF has already warned Kenya of the ballooning debts that are becoming unsustainable by the day.
I know President Uhuru and CS Rotich are scratching their heads as to where the money to finance the ambitious budget we have for the year 2017/2019 will come from and I would like to give them some 10 cents worth of at least one place they can think of to get some extra cash to help with at least one item in the big 4 Agenda. Yes, this may sound funny but it is actually very easy money if we dare think outside the box. Immigration products! Yes…Immigration. Let us get creative with our Immigration laws and make some good money out of it.
Every time we talk about Immigration, people think of passports and those tired officers in our border control stamping passports…and most recently CS Matiang’I warning that all illegal foreign nationals in Kenya must go so as to protect jobs for Kenyans. Let’s throw that box away for now and let me show you why we are sitting on natural resource bequeathed to us as sovereign state by international law and our constitution.
Many countries in the world today have citizenship and residency by investments where good wealthy people invest money in those countries and in return are given residence or citizenship. Some of the countries with these options include; United Kingdom, Malta, Cyprus, Netherlands, St. Kitts and Nevis and closer home South Africa. The options and costs differ from country to country but the costs range from USD 100,000 to Millions. In the UK for instance one is required to invest at least 2 Million Pounds or about 260 Million equivalent in Kenya Shillings! I am talking of big money for sure.
Currently in Kenya, one can become a citizen by residing here on a lawful residence for 7 years upon payment of Kshs. 200,000. While this is fine, I think if we get creative with the category of residency or citizenship and create one exclusively for the Ultra High Net worth individuals that are keen on having residence in Kenya. I can assure you that in Africa, Kenya is one place many wealthy people would love to reside…either at the beautiful coastal beach fronts, Kenyan high lands or the leafy suburbs of Nairobi or other cities and towns in the country. I have been approached by such individuals keen on exploring Kenyan citizenship or residence by investment but unfortunately our Immigration laws do not have those kind of options. If for example Bill gates or Aliko Dangote wants to have a home and residence in Kenya today, their options would be either class K (ordinary residence) or Class G (investor permit) both of which are limiting and issued only for 2-3 years and renewable every 2-3 years. This is not the case with countries with residence or citizenship by investment. In those countries, once you meet the investment threshold and obviously get cleared on other considerations such as security you are either given permanent residence or citizenship allowing you to enjoy all the benefits attendant to it.
As an Immigration Consultant I believe if we get creative with our Immigration we can raise substantial foreign investment and cash injections into our economy from Ultra High Net Worth individuals of good global standing that are keen having Kenyan residence or citizenship. I am imagining Bill Gates or Aliko Dangote having a Beach front home in Mombasa that they frequent and what that means in terms of jobs created and money spent here. Additionally, the rich people are always scouting for places to invest thus they could be here on holiday and spot an opportunity and decide to inject more investments into the country. In fact the mere fact that such people own homes in a place make prices of properties in such places increase exponentially because it is likely that other wealthy personalities will consider investing there too.
I see Immigration as a natural resource akin to oil, gold or even the airwaves that we sell licenses to the telecoms to raise money…we can tap into this on our own terms and raise cash. We could for instance say if you inject Kshs. 100 Million to 1 Billion into specific sectors of the Kenyan economy as we decide then you get Kenyan Permanent Residence and if you inject more say 10 Billion we give you citizenship if you pass other security and legal requirements.
Unfortunately, this may take awhile or not happen at all because we see immigration role as the one of just policing who is coming to Kenya and what they are coming to do. If I were to have my 5 minutes of fame with H.E The President that is what I would propose to him. We shall not be re-inventing the wheel because there are many countries with this program and there are many wealthy Kenyans that have gotten citizenship in those countries by investing there.
Kenya is a beautiful country with quite a developed infrastructure, educated population, amazing weather, culture, fantastic tourist attraction sites and very centrally located in Africa for ease of travel across the continent and we need to tap into that and get the monies coming in… Yes we can do it.
George M. Mucee ( BA, MA, LLB-Ongoing)
Immigration and Communication Consultant.